Iran 'sending snipers to aid Assad'
IRANIAN snipers have been deployed in Syria as part of the crackdown on protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a former member of the regime's secret police.
The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, crossed the border into Turkey last week after being ordered to shoot to kill. He said he had beaten prisoners and fired on protesters in Damascus. At times during the past two months he was aware of Iranian troops -- confirmed by senior officers -- alongside his team in the Syrian capital.
"We knew they were from Iran because we were not allowed to speak to them and they were kept well away from us," he said.
His account confirms other reports that Syria has turned to its closest ally for help in putting down the protests directed at the Assad family's 41 years in power.
Yesterday, Syrian forces shelled the Mediterranean port city of Latakia for a third straight day. At least 29 civilians, including a two-year-old girl, have been killed, according to rights groups.
So far more than 1,700 people reportedly have been killed, with the bloodshed forcing thousands of people to cross the border from Syria into Turkey.
Among them last week was the 25-year-old officer with the Mukhabarat secret police, who described how officers were increasingly unhappy at being ordered to kill unarmed protesters.
"They were all feeling like me. They were all afraid like me, but knew they would be killed if they left or if they refused orders," he said. Instead they aimed in the air.
He also described taking protesters -- some as young as 13 -- into police stations where they were beaten for the entertainment of senior officers.
The worst episode, he said, came in July when the secret police seized nine women believed to be married to opposition leaders. "The Mukhabarat stripped them and then made them walk through the streets," he said. "It was just to make their husbands turn themselves in. Two days later they did." (© Daily Telegraph, London)